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With the first sign of pea shoots at the market, I grant myself permission to act like a gleeful schoolgirl. Pea shoots, sometimes called pea greens or pea tips (and not to be confused with pea sprouts) are the tender young tendrils of pea plants like sugar snap peas or snow peas. Their appearance feels momentous to me, as they are the first shots of green I’ve seen in months. They even look coy for taking so long to show up. With their wispy, bouncy tendrils and delicate demeanor they seem to say: “Apologies for the late arrival, but we’re so happy to be here.” I start cooking them with abandon: pea shoots tossed with lemon juice on top of a frittata; with grassy olive oil and shaved Parmesan; sautéed with lots of ginger and garlic to accompany shrimp. Sometimes I even just crunch on pea shoots raw like a grazing rabbit. I’m just very happy they finally made it to the party.Given their highly anticipated entrance, I suppose they deserve a recipe worthy of a celebration meal, so I’ve gone ahead and planned them one. I hope they’ll be pleased. I toss the pea shoots with pasta and tender crabmeat in a bright, lemony butter and white wine sauce, and finish the dish with mint and other tender herbs. The resulting crab and pea shoot pasta makes a simple but very special supper that has everything to do with the quality of the ingredients. If you can find fresh tagliatelle, use it. The delicate texture is a fine match for the crab to get tangled up in. But if another long, dried, ribbon-like shape (such as linguine or fettucine) is in closer reach, use it—it will also work well. An easy salad composed of endive or fennel and radishes would be a nice addition to this meal.To drink, white is always a safe bet with crab; Saumur Blanc,Manoir de la Tête Rouge, “Tete d’Ange” 2017 (Chenin) retails for around $22 and is perfectly delicious. But for this dish, I think pink and preferably bubbly, such as this Free Mousse Pet Nat from Manoir de la Tête Rouge. It’s a blend of Cab Franc and Chenin Blanc grown in Le Puy-Notre-Dame in western France and truly coincidentally imported by my friends at Goatboy Selections—a small but mighty natural wine import company that has an impressive roster of producers. Sometimes it’s a good idea to pick a wine based on the back of the bottle, not the label on the front. If it’s stamped with a seal of approval from a distributor you like, you’ll more often than not be pleased with your selection. This wine is plainly just darn delicious. It smells subtly of tart, red fruit, has good acidity to cut through the richness of the butter, and plays nicely with the sweet salinity of the crab, but above all is playful and easy to sip on—we can all drink to that.


Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

35 mins
35 mins
4 to 6


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup cooking water. 

  • Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium until sizzling. Add shallots, garlic, and chiles; cook, stirring often, until onions are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with kosher salt to taste. 

  • Add wine,and return to a simmer over medium-high. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half, about 4 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, and return to a simmer; cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add crabmeat; gently toss to coat. 

  • Add cooked pasta and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Cook, stirring and shaking skillet constantly, until butter melts and a sauce forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pea shoots, gently tossing until just wilted, adding 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water at a time as needed to loosen sauce.  

  • To serve, divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls. Top evenly with herbs, lemon zest, and flaky sea salt.